Soaking in the nostalgia at 2nd Star's 'Singin' in the Rain'

For The Baltimore Sun

For admirers of the film starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, 2nd Star Productions’ “Singin’ in the Rain” is destined to delight even the most nostalgic fans.

Thirty-plus years after the musical romantic comedy splashed onto MGM’s big screen, the stage musical opened on Broadway in 1985. It’s adapted from the screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, with songs by Nacico Herb Brown and Arthur Freed.

Running for just over a year before appearing in revivals in London, then touring in London and Paris, “Singin’ in the Rain” won the 2001 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival.

The 2nd Star production is directed by Allison Erskine and produced by Gene Valendo and Mary Wakefield, with musical direction by Sandy Melson Griese and choreography by Andrew Gordon.

“Singin’ in the Rain” is set in late 1920s Hollywood just after the release of “The Jazz Singer,” the true to-life musical film that ended the silent film era.

The story focuses on film star Don Lockwood, played here by Jeffrey Hawkins; his sidekick Cosmo Brown, portrayed by Robbie Dinsmore; Don’s leading lady Lina Lamont, played by Katrina Sillaman; and love interest Kathy Selden, portrayed here by Emma Godfrey. There’s also the head of Monumental Pictures, R.F. Simpson, played by Julian Ball.

As Don’s vapid leading lady, Lina insists their onscreen romance is real — despite Don’s disinterest. Breaking away from his entourage, Don encounters Kathy in a park and is instantly smitten, as reflected in the song “You Stepped Out of a Dream.” Sparks fly as the two argue whether “pantomime on the screen” is “real” acting and the aspiring actress spurns Don’s advances.

Don and Cosmo convince Simpson to add sound and change the name of Don’s current film from “The Dueling Cavalier” to “The Dancing Cavalier.” One problem: Lina has a horrible voice and can’t sing. When Cosmo becomes head of the music department, Kathy is hired to be Lina’s voice.

The orchestra for 2nd Star performs beautiful accompaniment without overpowering the vocalists. The ensemble includes Griese and Trent Goldsmith on keyboard; Billy Georg on percussion; Matt Vross, Tim Spencer and Allyson Wesley on trumpets; David Mathes on trombone; Mari Hill, David Dimmock, Mike Monda and Dan Longo on reeds; and Al Robinson on bass.

Erskine and her ensemble and crew make it easy for theatergoers young and old to soak in the atmosphere.

Through two acts of delightful musical numbers, the enchanting set pieces created by scenic designer and painter Jane Wingard roll in, drop down, disappear and reappear like magic. Though that magic slows at times, the stand-alone vocal and dance performances are wonderfully framed by stage manager Joanne Wilson, and complemented by Garrison R. Hyde’s excellent light and sound design. Also of note are the colorful, eye-candy costumes designed by Mary Wakefield.

Crisp choreography, a wowing tech affect and Hawkins’ solo performance of Gene Kelly’s iconic “Singin’ in the Rain” create a show-stopping end to the first act.

Hawkins’ vocals and dancing are consistently winning; he captures great chemistry with the ladies and has terrific banter with Cosmo, portraying his character as a slightly conceited yet likable heartthrob.

Dinsmore also shines as Cosmo, not just with his comical facial expressions — especially in the winning duet with Hawkins, “Moses Supposes” — but as a sweet and sassy character.

Godfrey excels in the role of Kathy, expressing every nuance of her character’s conflicting emotions. Her vocal performance stands out in the solo, “You Are My Lucky Star.”

Listening closely to Lina’s “grating” voice hints that the actress has lovely vocal tones; Sillaman’s believable off-key solo, “What’s Wrong with Me,” speaks to her acting skill. And she looks beautiful as the antagonist, desperate to hold on to stardom.

Ball, too, is convincing and dashing as the sympathetic film magnate, Simpson. Standout supporting actors include Debra Kidwell as Nora, Wendell Holland as the Policeman and Malachi Sillaman and Brannon Titus, who are adorable as Young Don and Young Cosmo. The entire ensemble, too large to list, steps up to high bar.

Black and white film clips, yellow umbrellas and even the green sequined dress worn by Kidwell as a dancer for the tune, “Broadway Melody” — similar to Cyd Charisse’s costume in the movie — add sweet details to a classic that plays as fresh as an unexpected rain inside Bowie Playhouse.

"Singin’ in the Rain" continues through Oct. 20 at Bowie Playhouse, 16500 White Marsh Park Dr. Performances are 3 p.m. Sundays; and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with a special 3 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Oct. 20. General admission $22, students/seniors $19, and $12 for children younger than 12. For tickets, go to 2ndstarproductions.com or call 410-757-5700.

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